Loosely organised international hacker group Anonymous on Saturday organised demonstrations in 18 Indian cities to protest Internet censorship.
People thronged to protest sites such as the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi raised slogans to spread awareness about the Indian government’s advances towards censoring the web.
The Indian arm of Anonymous had sent out the call for the demonstrations following a Chennai court’s order to Indian Internet providers to block access to a number of file-sharing websites.
Holding banners and raised slogans like, “Raise your voice, save your voice”, internet users protested at a number of public places across India.
The venue of the Delhi protests, initially planned at India Gate, had to be shifted to Jantar Mantar after Delhi Police denied permission to the organisers.
Apart from Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Indore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Calicut, Nagpur, Pune, hosted the protests Anonymous said.
Demonstrations were also held in Chennai, Ahmedabad and Jaipur, Thiruvananthapuram, Mysore, Manipal and Coimbatore, the group’s blog showed.
Anonymous’ India chapter had earlier defaced a number of websites of the Indian government and internet service providers (ISPs) after they blocked several file and link sharing sites.
The group’s blog and Facebook page, announcing protests in key Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, drew steady support from Internet users.
Taking cues from the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests in the U.S., the demonstrations in the Indian cities called for public gatherings in key urban locations.
The planned Occupy-style protests called on Internet users to throng to the protest venues wearing Guy Fawkes masks, a symbol widely used by the hacktivist group.
“Internet is the only free media we have. Censoring it will mean that free speech is not possible any more,” a member of Anonymous was quoted as saying.
If the curbs on the websites, enforced by ISPs at the behest of the government and certain courts, are not lifted, there will be more attacks on government sites, the group warned.
The Indian arm of Anonymous coordinates with its followers in mainly through its Posterous blog at http://opindia.posterous.com/ and its Twitter account @opindia_revenge.
The group has been a vocal critic of a recent clampdown on websites such as Pastebin, Vimeo and DailyMotion, by ISPs such as Airtel and Reliance.
India has 100 million Internet users, less than a tenth of the country’s population of 1.2 billion, but still the third largest user base behind China and the United States.